Great Golf Invention: Improved Tournament Periscope

Steve Davis and his invention at Sherwood Country Club, Thousand Oaks, California, December 2, 2012.

On Sunday, at Tiger’s tournament, I ran into Steve Davis, who is the guy in the photo above. He invented the contraption he’s holding: a periscope that enables him to see over the heads of people standing in front of him. It’s an improvement over other golf periscopes because it doesn’t completely block the view of people standing behind him. Also, it has a shoulder strap and a beer holder:

Davis works for a copier company. He has “wallpapered” his invention with color copies of mementos from other golf tournaments he’s attended, including the 2010 U.S. Open. If you’d like to give him a lot of money to manufacture these things full time, let me know, and if you don’t sound like a nut I’ll put you in touch.

Periscopes used to be common at golf tournaments. The photo below is from the 1965 Ryder Cup, at Royal Birkdale. (Senior Service is a British cigarette brand.)

Many spectators at the 1993 Ryder Cup, which I attended (at the Belfry, in England), had periscopes that looked like the boxes that bottles of Johnny Walker scotch come in. (Johnny Walker sponsored the tournament.) The Belfry is a terrible course for spectators, and the periscopes made things better for the people who had them and worse for the people who didn’t. The only way to improve Davis’s invention, I think, would be to add a second beer holder.

 

The Best Way to Watch the Ryder Cup

No, that’s not a medical office building. It’s the premium grandstand beside the eighteenth green at the 1993 Ryder Cup, which was held at The Belfry, in England.

The best way to watch almost any golf tournament is on TV. That’s especially true of the Ryder Cup, because at any moment there’s hardly anything going on. I’ve been to just one Ryder Cup in person—in 1993, on the Brabazon course at The Belfry, in England—and it was a spectator’s nightmare. The most coveted seats, initially, were in an enclosed multistory grandstand beside the eighteenth green, and people who had passes for it began arriving long before the first match teed off. They then waited for almost twelve hours with nothing to watch except one another getting drunk, because on the first day only one of the eight matches—the afternoon four-ball between Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie, for the Europeans, and Paul Azinger and Fred Couples, for the United States—made it to the eighteenth hole.

The Belfry, like most of the courses where the Europeans hold the Ryder Cup, is a dud. The nicest thing that Ron Whitten could find to say about it, in Golf Digest’s 1993 Ryder Cup preview, was that its blandness would prevent it from intruding on the golf—perhaps the faintest possible praise for a championship layout. It’s also the opposite of a stadium course. There are no hillsides or mounds for spectators to stand on, and in 1993 the trees  were way too small to climb. I saw one man standing on a paint can, which he had somehow smuggled past the guards at the gate, and I saw many people standing on small stools, also smuggled. Because the viewing opportunities were so meager, there were crowds surrounding the few available television sets. There was one in the Lloyd’s pharmacy tent, and one in the exhibition tent, and one in a rowdy refreshment tent near the tenth fairway. Medinah Country Club is far more spectator-friendly, but if you’re watching from home you should still count yourself lucky.

You should also be grateful that the broadcast isn’t being handled by the BBC. In 1993, Tom Kite would be putting for eagle somewhere, but on the screen you would see Colin Montgomerie practicing a putt he had just missed, or Nick Faldo standing by his golf bag, chatting with his caddie. The camera operators couldn’t track balls in the air and had trouble finding them when they were on the ground. The producers would suddenly cut to Barry Lane, picking him up in mid-follow-through, and the sound equipment on the course looked like Second World War surplus. The BBC has improved since then, but not enough. In the TV Cup, the USA wins every time.